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Lord Monson: My Lords, this is an interesting amendment. The Scottish parliament will have approximately the same powers as the Stormont parliament had between 1922 and 1972. As a quid pro quo for having been given so many devolved powers, during that period the Northern Irish were allowed only 70 per cent. of the representation at Westminster to which their numbers would otherwise have entitled them. On an equivalent basis, Scotland would therefore have only 39 or 40 seats at Westminster.

I believe that there are fairer ways of solving the West Lothian--or for that matter North Belfast--question and we will be touching on the former in a moment. However, this is an important matter which deserves to be raised.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden: My Lords, I detect the sound of gunfire in this amendment and it is not for me to argue a case against my native land. But we are edging very near to the West Lothian question and the repercussions from the Bill which this amendment undoubtedly brings out.

For my part I cannot escape the logic of the case that has been made, particularly the reference to the fact that in the past the Boundary Commission looked at representation at Westminster in the light of the powers that had been devolved to Northern Ireland. All that I would say is that this will not go away. I believe that because of the powers that are not being devolved from the Westminster Parliament to the English regions, the Boundary Commission for Scotland will have to take into account the position there relative to that south of the Border and the quota of members thereof. Perhaps this is the unacceptable face of devolution so far as concerns Scottish representation at Westminster.

6.30 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, the noble Earl's amendment runs headlong into the psychology of Scottish Unionism. He attacks two of its central bulwarks; namely, substantial representation at Westminster and economic advantage. That is the purpose of the treaty. He is very unwise to attack it.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, this amendment is of considerable significance as it relates to the representation of Scotland in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I note that the noble Earl said that he was speaking for himself--although adding himself to the people of Yorkshire and Humberside--and that he was not speaking for his party.

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However, the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, who is a former Minister, spoke in a way which although not endorsing the noble Earl, came close to indicating a degree of support for him. In those circumstances and because Scotland's future representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom is such a major issue and of significance in Scotland, I should be pleased to give way to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, if he would like the opportunity to repudiate the argument put forward by his noble colleague. If he does not intervene, I shall take it that, as the Official Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, he does not want to repudiate the noble Earl's argument which I think will be utterly unacceptable to the people of Scotland. They have as much interest as any other citizens of the United Kingdom in issues such as foreign affairs, defence, macro-economic policy and social security--that is, in all the issues that are being reserved.

We have recognised that the present requirement placed upon the Boundary Commission, which results, I am happy to say, in a strict population over-representation in Scotland, is indefensible now that we are about to have a devolved parliament, and that a move towards parity is the way forward. However, the argument that Scottish citizens are somehow second-class citizens in the sense that they do not have a legitimate interest in all those matters that are being reserved and therefore should not be properly represented at Westminster is totally unacceptable to the Government. I had hoped that it would be totally unacceptable to the Official Opposition, but that is clearly not the case.

Perhaps I may deal now with Northern Ireland. The point was made that under earlier arrangements with Stormont, Northern Ireland had a 70 per cent. level of representation. It is well known that that was subsequently changed. I believe that Northern Ireland's representation is now at virtual parity with that of the rest of the United Kingdom. There has been no suggestion during the passage of the Northern Ireland Bill that somehow Northern Ireland's representation should be reduced in recognition of the fact that it will have devolved political institutions. Of course, the noble Earl's amendment does not relate to Northern Ireland but, again, I do not see why Scotland should be treated any differently from Northern Ireland. I consider this amendment to be grossly offensive. I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw it.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, in responding to his somewhat leaden-footed attack on the Opposition, may I ask him to explain exactly what he understands will be the effect of subsection (4) of Clause 86?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, as far as I understand it, Clause 86(4) gives expression to what I stated was the policy; namely, to remove the requirement that the Boundary Commission should apply a number for Scottish representation which would put it above the

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population quota for the rest of the United Kingdom. It is by that means that the number of Scottish MPs is reduced to parity.

The Earl of Dartmouth: My Lords, I should like briefly to respond to the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. He said that the great bulwarks of Unionism were disproportionate representation and additional funding, if I noted his second phrase correctly. He is, of course, correct, but the whole point is that it would appear that the people of Scotland do not want the Union; they want some accelerated form of home rule. My point was that they cannot similarly expect to have what goes with, or used to go with, the Union.

I should like to express my great disappointment at what the Minister said. He has a distinguished record, as I understand it, as an academic. As the possessor of no fewer than three degrees, I welcome being taught logic by a distinguished professor such as the Minister. He had two points. First, he found my arguments offensive. It is therefore a pity that he did not respond to them. Secondly, he said that the people of Scotland would find my arguments unacceptable. They are not here to respond to them.

The Minister referred to the question of Scottish MPs at Westminster. Perhaps I may respond briefly. After the next general election, there will still be 72 MPs representing Scottish constituencies at Westminster unless Amendment No. 35 is accepted by the Government. There will certainly be 58 MPs representing Scottish constituencies thereafter.

As I understand it--I am willing to be corrected--the new Scottish parliament will cover health, education, transport, the environment, economic development and agriculture. That is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but it is pretty much a majority of what constitutes parliamentary business in the House of Commons. It is also much more than a majority of what makes up the average MP's postbag. Those 72/58 Scottish MPs, who will be receiving a full salary, will be seriously under-employed. At best, they will spend a high proportion of their time twiddling their thumbs; at worst, they will interfere in purely English matters of health, education, transport and agriculture which in logic and in equity should be none of their concern.

That hideous anomaly, coupled with Scotland's tremendous fiscal privileges, which the Scotland Bill leaves untouched, will almost inevitably create a deep antipathy between Scotland and the English regions. Just because it is not there now, does not mean that it will not be there in a very strong form in short order. The only possibility of ameliorating that and at the same time saving the Union would have been for the Government to accept the amendment--and to do so gracefully.

I should have liked the amendment to be pressed to a Division, but unfortunately I have been unable to attract the support of my noble friends on this occasion. This will not be the last that the Government will hear of this matter, but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 36:

Page 40, line 36, at end insert--
("( ) At the beginning of rule 5 there is inserted "Subject to rule 5A below,".
( ) After rule 5 there is inserted--
"5A. No more than one tenth of the parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, excluding those formed by rule 3A, shall have an electorate more than 10 per cent. greater or smaller than the electoral quota."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we turn to an issue which I have addressed on a number of occasions when, frankly, I have had pretty unsatisfactory answers from the Government. Perhaps I may deal with these points for a last time to see whether I can achieve a better answer from the Government today.

The position at present is that Scotland has 72 parliamentary constituencies with an electoral quota of some 54,000. However, there are some amazing variations within that figure. As my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser or Carmyllie pointed out a few minutes ago, the situation will change when the Bill is enacted in that Clause 86(4) will come into play and the electoral quota in Scotland will actually go to the same number as the electoral quota in England.

I understand from a Parliamentary Answer in another place recently that the latter will take the Scottish quota to something like 69,000. I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that; indeed, I suppose it is probably about 69,500 but let us call it 69,000. That is up from 54,000. In my view, the result will be that the number of Scottish seats will be reduced to about 58. Again, I should like the Government's view on what they think their own legislation means. In other words, am I right in thinking that the electoral quota will go to 69,000 odd and that the consequence of that will be that the number of Scottish seats would go down to 58?

In my view, if such a dramatic change will be undertaken by the next Boundary Commission, we ought to address the problem which I have drawn to the attention of the noble Lords on a number of occasions; namely, that the Boundary Commission has been singularly bad at actually achieving the electoral quota for the majority of seats in Scotland. One of the consequences of the seats being badly out of kilter, not just in Scotland but also in England and Wales, is that the "distortions", as they are called, of the first-past-the-post system relative to the number of people who vote are actually increased. It is simply but mathematically true that if the seats were closer to the electoral quota then the results of general elections in the number of seats gained by first-past-the-post would be closer to the proportionality of votes gained around the country--not exactly, but certainly closer.

Getting closer to electoral parity is important, given all the other points that we discussed earlier about Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles having special consideration and, therefore, very small numbers. Indeed, one accepts that, and I absolutely agree. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, was kind enough to read out Rule 6 to the House; in fact, he read it out

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twice. He clearly said that if specific geographical considerations apply the Boundary Commission should reduce the number.

With an electoral quota of 69,000, and if the Boundary Commission behaves the way that it has done in the past, my worry is that the disparity in seats in Scotland will actually increase. It is not Orkney and Shetland, the Western Isles, or Caithness and Sutherland that I worry about; it is urban seats. I have to use the existing situation as an example because that is all we have. But if noble Lords were to project it forward, they would recognise the problem I pose and the one which I am attempting to resolve by way of my amendment.

Let us take the current quota of 54,000. All the seats in the city of Edinburgh amount to more that 60,000 votes; in fact, it has an average of about 62,000. All the seats in the city of Glasgow amount to under 60,000; indeed, some are under 50,000. Their average is 51,000. Therefore, all the seats in the city of Glasgow are actually under the electoral quota. I wonder whether specific geographical considerations apply to the seats in the constituencies in Glasgow--seats which, without any trouble, one could easily walk across when taking a brisk Sunday afternoon stroll. There is no logic at all in that position. As I said, those seats have an average of 51,000. Hamilton South, which I suspect one could walk across in half a Sunday afternoon, has 47,000 electors. Yet, at the other extreme, Carrick, Cumnok and the Doon Valley, which is a very large geographical constituency in Strathclyde as it was, has 66,500 electors. Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, which stretches from the North Sea across Scotland to the Atlantic, has 66,500. There are a number of further examples that I could give to the House, but I believe that those I have given illustrate my point.

It has always been said by the defenders of disparity, "The reason is that we want to give small numbers to the big rural seats". In actual fact, they have not done so. Indeed, from my memory, Dumfries has 62,000 odd whereas Inverness West and Skye--I believe that there is a word in between the two that I have forgotten--is actually pretty close to the average. However, it still ought to be under the average, because it stretches, again, from the North Sea to the Moray Firth and all the way across to the Atlantic Ocean.

If noble Lords were to study Scottish parliamentary seats they would be as puzzled as I am about how the Boundary Commissions have decided which seats should be heavily under quota and which should be over quota. Indeed, they are not just under or over quota by a little; they are over and under by a considerable number. When this goes up to 69,000 as it will do, and quite rightly--I think that the Government are right because I believe that it addresses the West Lothian question in part and I agree with them in that respect¬--I believe it will become more important that some tie, so to speak, or some other rule is imposed on the Boundary Commission in order to say, "You really must do better in getting close to the 69,000".

If we exclude the constituency of Orkney and Shetland--and, frankly, I should like to have excluded the Western Isles as well, but we were not allowed to

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do so earlier--I suggest that only 10 per cent of seats, which in Scottish terms would be about six seats, should be outside 10 per cent on either side of 69,000. That means that almost all the seats in Scotland would have to hit a range of 62,000 to 76,000. If that were imposed on the Boundary Commission I believe that one would actually see it address the ridiculous situation in West Central Scotland.

I have a mild suspicion as to why it is always West Central Scotland--in other words, constituencies like Glasgow and Lanarkshire; indeed, all over the place--which are well under the average population size. Alternatively, on the east coast, the city of Edinburgh, which has not always been dominated by the Labour party, actually has averages of 62,000. In fact, Edinburgh would not need to change to just catch my limit, although one or two of the seats would need to go up a little.

My point is that I do not believe the Boundary Commission has done a very good job in the past of hitting close to the target of the electoral quota. It has shown a scatter which defies logic in that some of the smaller seats, apart from the very special ones, have been the smallest geographically; that is to say, the smallest in number and the smallest geographically: in other words, the tightest seats with absolutely no defence under Rule 6, which the Minister read out to the House. It seems to me that we ought to tie the Boundary Commission in a little tighter, especially when it comes to re-dividing Scotland into 58 seats with an electoral quota of 69,000.

I hope that noble Lords and the Government agree with me. Frankly, at this late stage I hope that even if the Government will not accept my amendment they will signal from the Dispatch Box that the Boundary Commission, which looks at the issue again under Clause 86, will actually take into account in a better manner than its predecessors the need to get most constituencies pretty close to the electoral quota. My noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie pointed out that, with Lady Cosgrove as the chairman of the Boundary Commission, I should be quite optimistic that that would happen. However, just in case, perhaps I may suggest to the Government that if they require anyone to give the commission a lesson on such matters I would not even look for a fee in order to do so. I do not know whether it would advantage the Conservative Party, but I know that it would advantage the first-past-the-post system and make it fairer. That is important. I believe that governments of all parties--and I include my own when I suggested it from the Back Benches opposite in the early 1990s--have walked away from the issue.

When the Government act sensibly by reducing the number of Scottish members to 58 to give parity with England so that after devolution England and Scotland will be on all fours as regards representation, I hope that they will also address the important issue of ensuring

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that the Boundary Commission has a better hit record on the electoral quota than its predecessors have had. I beg to move.

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